President Trump might just have earned a couple hundred thousand votes on Sunday — even before he arrived at Daytona International Speedway.
That’s how many people are attending the Daytona 500 in Florida, where Trump visited to serve as grand marshal for the annual NASCAR race. When Air Force One flew into the Daytona International Airport, right next to the speedway, the plane first swooped over the track at an estimated altitude of 800 feet. The crowd went nuts.
Fox showed the flyby live.
“I have been to a lot of Daytona 500s,” one commentator said as Air Force One flew in, “never have I felt the excitement and energy. We’ve got great racing on the track but we’ve got the president landing right now, the fans are pumped up, I mean, wow, what a day!”
“It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen,” said another commentator. “They said that plane’s 800 feet above the racetrack right now. What an entrance by the president of the United States!”
— Nick Trainer (@NicholasTrainer) February 16, 2020
— Vincent Bruins (@VincentJBruins) February 16, 2020
Trump buzzing the entire Daytona 500 with Air Force One.
If your heart doesn’t skip a beat watching this you’re a communist.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 16, 2020
The crowd went crazy.
Wow. Listen to that crowd! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/aff3YIzZD2
— Erin Perrine (@ErinMPerrine) February 16, 2020
Trump, with first lady Melania by his side, gave a short speech as grand marshal just before the race. When he was introduced, the crowd applauded loudly, with some chanting “four more years.”
“My fellow race fans,” Trump said, “the Daytona 500 is a legendary display. … Rubber will burn, fans will scream and the great American race will begin,” he said.
Trump also thanked the “tens of thousands of patriots“ gathered at the speedway and touted the race as “pure American glory.” No matter who wins, he told the crowd, “what matters most is God, family and country.”
But is attending a NASCAR race really enough? Not for Trump. Word began circulating Saturday night that Trump might actually take a lap around the famed track in the presidential limo known as The Beast.
“SCOOP: Multiple Sources tell @FoxNews that @realDonaldTrump is planning to take a lap at the @DISupdates Daytona International Speedway in the ‘Beast’ presidential limo ahead of the Daytona 500. It’s not 100%, but that is the plan at the moment,” Fox News’ John Roberts wrote on Twitter.
SCOOP: Multiple Sources tell @FoxNews that @realDonaldTrump is planning to take a lap at the @DISupdates Daytona International Speedway in the “Beast” presidential limo ahead of the Daytona 500. It’s not 100%, but that is the plan at the moment.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) February 15, 2020
Memes started moving right away, like this video found on reddit.com.
Trump's getting ready for a a lap around Daytona. pic.twitter.com/TjBCHKPp4g
— Joseph Curl ❎ (@josephcurl) February 15, 2020
The Beast isn’t exactly the kind of vehicle built for speed. The heavily modified Cadillac costs millions to produce and it’s so weighted down with armor that it weighs somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 pounds (no one knows for sure, so secretive is the production of the vehicle).
The Beast has eight-inch thick steel doors that weigh as much as those on a Boeing 757, and the five-inch thick front windshield can protect the president from armor-piercing bullets. The Beast also has “run-flat tires,” an air-tight interior that seals against chemical attacks, along with some offensive capabilities, such as rocket-propelled and smoke grenades, pump shotguns in the front doors, and a tear gas cannon.
Toss in night vision optics, onboard oxygen tanks and an armored fuel tank filled with foam to prevent explosions and you’ve got one of the most secure cars in the world.
Sure enough, after Trump as grand marshal said, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Trump boarded The Beast and, with a U.S. and presidential flag on the front fenders flapping in the wind, headed out onto the track. The limo stayed down on the apron throughout its lap because the turns are steeply banked for speeds of at least 70 mph as it paced the full field of cars, another first.
The drivers loved it, too.
Trump isn’t the first to attend the venerable race. Former President George W. Bush attended the Daytona 500 in 2004 and his father, former president George H.W. Bush, attended a July race at Daytona in 1992. Ronald Reagan also attended a race in 1984. But Daytona named Trump the grand marshal of Sunday’s race, making him the first sitting president to hold the honor.